We completed initial pollarding (drastic pruning to be repeated cyclically) of about one half of trees in our 1 acre woodland ‘air meadow’ Demo Plot this growing season, with mostly red maples left (goats prefer these in winter). Interns Joshua Kauppila and Emily MacGibeny have both completed their seasons’ commitments and are far away. I have hired new intern Maddy Cain who will join me in April 2019.
I am now pruning red maples and softwoods (we retained firs and pines with live branches <10 ft. up plus hemlock and w. cedar) which goats prefer in winter, and just fed out the last dried leafy branches from 3 storage piles there (excepting samples saved for our next trip to other farms, and a pile of green but goat-rejected oak to chip, re-moisten and ensile). Entries on spread sheets for goat weights (from which to compute dry matter consumed) and tree measurements (to describe our plot) therefore continue.
Person-hours: We spent 454 person-hrs. felling tightly spaced softwoods and re-structuring the 5/8 acre’s worth of trees completed to 12/25/18 and dealing with brush /fodder. So we are taking about 726 person-hours/acre. Hiring an arborist would have been less expensive and much quicker, yet the goats could not have eaten as much fresh if pruning had happened all at once. Our time working in company of goats has been pleasant, often above the biting insect zone with partial shade for summer heat, and much stretching in varied use of our bodies. (Josh pictured below.)
DM edible portion: The goats ate about 500 lbs. of fresh tree leaves (about 200 lbs. DM) from the 1/2 of trees in our 1 acre Demo Plot which we struggled to prune fast enough for them during the growing season. Goats ate about 1/3 fresh lb. per hr. per adult doe. Nov. 1st to Dec. 25th they have eaten about 286 lbs. dried leaves and fresh bark combined (bark being from an additional 1/8 of Demo Plot trees), eating a bit more than 1/3 lb. dried leaves and fresh bark per adult goat per hr., (filling bellies much more thoroughly with these immediately abundant and drier feeds). This gives us a DM total of about 700 lbs. DM/acre being consumed by goats during initial restructuring of ‘air meadow’ trees. We are now out of dried leaves; yet I expect our DM consumed/acre figure to continue to rise as I prune the remaining 3/8 of Demo Plot trees, due to the higher rate of winter eating of choice red maple bark versus summer eating of sometimes non-choice fresh leaf species, the more easily climbable structures of maple trees, and slower perishability of prunings in winter.
Limiting factors during the growing season were: our ineptness at use of throw ball for getting ropes up into crowded trees with small high tops giving small returns per tree (particularly the aspens and white birches); same denseness making softwoods complicated to fell; a preponderance of red maple and softwoods which goats do not prefer in summer; and our research need to dry and to ensile portions of all species, some of which goats wanted fresh, like ensiled, but have refused dried (particularly quaking and big toothed aspens cut before frost, and red oak).
Storage: On-site feeding from the Demo Plot piles has been labor-saving and of significant feed value despite some insect damage, molds, and rejected tree species. One dried leaf storage pile’s center raised small green caterpillars making lace and excrement of aspen and oak leaves especially (ash seemed immune; r. maple and birches barely touched). Another pile molded on top in the center, helped by small gaps in tarping around the original pole (later cut short). About 2/3 leaves in the 3 storage piles retained green color and intact quality. Yet one doe one day was selecting molded aspen leaves over dried green aspen leaves (fresh aspen leaves from young root-sprouts and dried aspen leaves seem to have an anti-feedant issue for goats unless cut after frost). Barn dried leafy branches were insect free, but generally less colorful than those (shown below) from the densely packed tarped piles.
Livestock preferred courser shredding or chipping to fine, and picked through for largest leaf pieces, whether ensiled or dried (remaining woody chips contribute positively to bedding materials). I hope to perfect the speed of chipping or shredding in 2019 to produce the leafiest least ground-up texture.
Chipped fodders ensiled in buckets and barrels produced more consistent quality (less mold, more green, and very well-received by all livestock) than those spread in wooden boxes in an open barn to dry. Humans consistently enjoyed the aromas of our leaf silages. Animals generally preferred even the three molded silages over dried leaves. Regardless, some species of even dried chipped leafy branches were popular with all livestock.
Initial restructuring (pollarding); Broadleaf Tree descriptive data:
Mean measurements on newly pollarded broadleaf trees:
See www.3streamsfarmbelfastme.blogspot.com “Tree Inventory” spreadsheet with above stats per tree plus date cut, moon phase etc. Scroll to the bottom to see species separated and summarized, and then new winter data beginning.
Softwoods: We retained the few hemlocks and white cedars to prune, plus all firs and pines with live branches below 10 ft. were topped rather than felled. Two grand white pines are also remaining unaltered.
Tally of felled softwoods:
Tree sprouting responses: Red maples (below ctr.), some oaks (below R), and one white birch (below L) have responded to initial pollarding with significant sprouts. I expect most others to begin to sprout in spring, but am not counting upon the aspens, as their leaves we retained were drying toward the end of our summer drought.
See www.3streamsfarmbelfastme.blogspot.com for picture files of both newly pollarded trees in the Demo Plot and established pollards elsewhere on the farm that we are re-pruning and watching/photographing. I will take pictures of sprouting of tagged tree joints in September 2019 as written; there will be up to 2 seasons’ growth on some of the trees, as maples for instance were pruned last winter (original write-up said 1 yr’s. growth, which will be true for a few trees)
Photos of healing on previously established pollards are also there, and will be discussed in our 2020 Final Report “Pruning Guidelines” section.
Livestock responses: Livestock sampling of fresh intact and fresh chipped leafy branches was generally very positive, with almost 4/5 of offerings eaten immediately or eventually. Holstein cows at Faithful Venture Farm were least enthusiastic, with widely varying responses probably related to the timing of visits. Unfortunately they were the farthest away and my own time window tended to be evening when they were receiving other feed in the barn. Also a small wide free goat was confounding reliability of any “2 eventually ate” entries. I may make return visits to the Holsteins with fresh fodders in 2019, to correct these issues.
I am now taking data on livestock responses to ensiled chipped and ensiled hand-stripped leafy branches, plus to dried intact and dried chipped leafy branches. As Jackson Regenerational Farm no longer has cattle, Meadowsweet Farm sheep and cows are now on board, with extremely positive responses to 10 silages and 13 dried samples at first visit on 11/21/18 (photos below).
Ensiled leaves have been positively received by all our livestock samplers, and are generally preferred over dried leaves, with intact preferred over chipped, whether dry or ensiled. Ash and willow are devoured in any form by all livestock. Goats eagerly eat chipped ensiled aspen though they are refusing even intact aspen dried unless cut after frost and turning. Cattle and hogs (and occasionally sheep or goats though less traditional) have begun to sample traditionally cooked dried leaves of various species, with positive responses especially from the cattle – even Faithful Venture Holsteins! who so far rank cooked leaves even above ensiled leaves.
R.I.P Alchemy, the bull-calf raised primarily on tree leaves at Jackson Regenerational Farm, who was an especially sweet-tempered and appreciative contact. His hanging weight was 150 lbs. after one summer of life.
Animal Response Summary Chart: these response means do not reflect range of responses.
See “Animal Responses” spreadsheet at www.3streamsfarmbelfastme.blogspot.com for full range of responses.
We are succeeding in obtaining cattle, sheep, goat and hog responses to a broad range of tree leaf fodder products, with predominantly positive responses to fresh, dried, ensiled, and cooked leaves or leafy branches. We are especially excited about the logistically easier chipped or shredded silages.
We will be able to produce a ball-park Dry Matter figure for what our goats consume from initial establishment of the Demo Plot (see preliminary figures in previous section).
We have extensive photographic data on trees being pollarded, and next fall will add pictures of new growth, from which to draw species-specific conclusions about our pruning protocols. In addition to requirements of our grant, we added moon phase information to our tree inventory, and hope to learn more from both our tree sprouting responses and from European University contacts about timing cutting in relation to moon-weeks.
In April, we hope to seek funding to test nutrition of ensiled and dried fodder samples. We are also exploring larger scale ensiling of chipped tree matter.
We look forward to continuing to utilize and monitor the progress and fodder offerings of the “air meadow” Demo Plot along with our goats and hogs, to the end of this grant period, and in years to come.
I spoke for 10 minutes about tasty timing of leaf harvests, based upon literature resources and my observations of goats and hogs, and produced an article and PowerPoint on same, for Colloque Trognes in Sare, France March 2nd. I announced this SARE grant in my presentation, but the coinciding name of the town we were in may have confused listeners.
I helped children climb ladders to feed goats from a tall row of hybrid willows at MOFGA Farm and Homestead day in June, and conversed with all ages about our SARE project there.
MOFGA Tree Fodder Day July 9th was a resounding success; I verbally summarized our SARE project during the farm presentations, and passed around silage and chipped dried samples during our storage discussion circle. In the remaining days of the Tree Fodder Seminar, arborist climbing instruction and mushroom inoculation workshops occurred in our SARE Demo Plot, where initial pruning was well under way.
I spoke about “Tree Leaf Preferences of Cows, Sheep, Goats and Hogs” at Common Ground Fair; see the power-point presentation (that did not show in a sunny tent) posted at www.3streamsfarmbelfastme.blogspot.com.
I have been freezing small samples of each silage opened, and in my process of scrambling to explore grant funding the nutritional testing of these samples, my University contacts doubled and became newly aware of our SARE project. In visiting farms for livestock responses plus playing fiddle at Camden Farmers’ Market, I connected with two more arborists, one of whom is now on board to bring us large amounts of ensilable chipped leafy branches of various species, taking us perhaps toward an “Innovative Practices” exploration of using Faithful Venture Farm’s bail wrapper to ensile in one-ton tote bags.
I hope to line up venues this winter for sharing of our Final Report in 2019-20.
Red Maple: Most of the large maples were storm pollarded, possibly in the 1998 Ice Storm (our ring counts on maples were visual guesses as rings were quite faint). So I have varied from our originally planned 3 ” cuts, to sometimes re-pollard near an original break, or sometimes cut the old trunk down further, to strong lower growth response to the storm damage. In summer we were leaving “sap risers” (small branches with a bit of foliage) on almost each limb cut back; in winter, I am often leaving only chunky collars or short stubs (probability of sprouting is high on maples).
Smaller diameter maples, responses to basal firewood cuts of the previous landowner pre-2000, were/are often as tall as the larger maples, yet due to smooth young bark we can expect sprouting from a trunk cut in easy reach. These long young tops offer a lot of tasty bark for goats to strip, yet can be deceivingly dangerous to cut. The goats have learned well the command “Watch Out!”
Drying Piles: We found that with a person atop a drying pile holding the leafy ends of a bundle together just past the center of the pile, the person handing up the bundle could spread the larger stick ends for an even horizontally packed tight stack. We found that the center poles were unnecessary, as pile height was limited by our ability to lift the brush, and to mount the pile to spread it. The density of the 5 ft. high piles increased as armloads were added. We worried that leaves would shatter, but air moisture kept them pliable. Mold and insect damage occurred where leaves were concentrated at the center, exacerbated by moisture entering at the pole opening.
Nick Jackson at Jackson Regenerational Farm (one of our sampling farms) misunderstood my verbal description, and did something possibly better: He stacked up to 8 ft. coppice cuttings vertically, stick ends down, wrapping a rope around the initial bundles with a rooted center pole for stability. This configuration may be better for on-site feeding, as animals can eat directly from each layer without temptation to climb and soil the pile.
Chipping: We chipped into a moveable calf hutch, with cardboard or plywood beneath. The silages packed with a complete inner plastic bag were mold-free; those relying upon just the bucket seal, or just topped with a shopping bag of same fodder, sometimes molded. The molded silages were generally still accepted by livestock. The dried chipped fodders were spread 2″ deep in wooden blueberry flats; aspens tended to mold, and generally the ensiled chips were better received than the dried.
Hand stripping: Ash, aspens and willow were quick to hand-strip, snapping short twigs with leaf bunches. Other species were impractical to hand-strip for silage, yet certainly ranked a notch higher than chipped silages by the animals.
Here are some before and after pictures of trees that we've done to get an idea of what our pruning looks like:
Here is Shana, way up a poplar....And here are some of the goaties sneaking under our tarps which is one of our main methods of storing and drying the pieced fodder. There must be something tasty under there!
A very dry entry, though freed by the blessed rain to work on this:
Today I ended up meeting Faithful Venture Farm's Holsteins in their pasture instead of at milking time. This was SO fun: they stampeded up to me in this very green sunny place, and politely checked out but refused the white birch both on the branch, and fresh chipped (that's expectable; it's a sheep species).
Since I was way down the hill already, I decided to be even later for my own animals, and took a walk to fetch basswood, ash, and oak from the trees there. The cows had gone back to stand close along the wood line in shade, and upon my return only #162 was facing me on my end. She hogged everything, before the others caught on! I suspect Basswood (linden, lime, Tilia) and White Ash (Fraxinus) to continue to be on their menu of choices; the oak may only be tasty to them at this young understory stage.
In any case, now I have a friend. #162 followed me to sniff and refuse the white birch again, and then I crawled under another fence line to offer some elm, which was surprisingly only nibbled - very fuzzy stage, not fully leafed - or is that different than the elm at my place? (my leaves are pretty smooth now). There is supposedly Slippery Elm around here.
Penny the Dexter cow at Jackson Regenerational Farm, and the sheep at Y Knot Farm all settled happily for white birch, both intact and chipped.
My goaties got some nicer white birch later, from a lush pollard next to their grassy paddock : ) Yet they limit consumption, eating eagerly until their tannin limit is reached? We shall see if the ensiled chips are more digestible for them, next winter.
Tomorrow I will bring some white birch to the hogs. They appreciated it dried last winter.
Today I conversed with a likely internship candidate, though she hopes to start in July. Perhaps Josh Kauppila and myself will be spelled a bit by Susie Dexter with some Per Diem days, in the interim. I am sleeping strange hours in order to pull of what we are managing to keep up with, as the original plan was to have three interns. Not that I have ever minded a challenge : )
Dear Witnesses to my Leafy Obsession, and also our Milk Drinkers who have broken fast this week,
The weighing of goats coming in and out of our Demo Plot has become almost a Goat Treat. Some were getting back up onto the scale to see if I would rub any more black flies out of their fur and off their bellies.
The goats gratified me by showing interest in the moist young white birch leaves today, just about flatly refused yesterday. I must bring a sample to my hogs.
I succeeded yesterday morning in finding my way to a digital scale at the CoOp downtown (despite store rearrangement), bagged goat poops in hand (in paper And plastic). 8 defecation events in 2 hrs. only added up to just over a half lb.. I meant to point out to a cashier that I was bringing something in to weigh, but no one was at the front right then, causing some concern that I might get caught shop-lifting the poops...or even worse, weighing them for a drug deal. Yet despite store cameras, no cops trailed me home (my car inspection is over-due, but maybe they would have been too gaga over the poops to notice?).
Josh and I were up in beech trees, as the black flies stay near the ground. The Goaties were intent to thieve our paper records, and at one point Zephyr did sleight-of-mouth with a roll of electrical tape for rope ends. This is unusual feistiness for my calm loving goats; they get bored with the small (1 acre) fenced-in plot.
4/28/18 Dear Josh, Any May, and those Curious about our Funded Farmer Research in the Woods,
At two urinations sighted in a 2 hr. period, and none collected (over too fast), I suspect we lost more liquid to the black flies, who came out in full force just today. They are way too small for the platform scale, plus hard to catch without losing all that liquid AGAIN. So Farmer Research it is – inexact science.
Poops, on (or should I say “in” more literally) the other hand (in an old plastic bag stolen from the flagging tape scraps, and slightly leaky) were worth some attention, weighing in at 1 or 2 lbs. total. We are still out on the reward goat walk (for good behavior – no ‘king of the hill’ at 2nd weighing, and they got that they must follow through and be weighed before release), so have not yet actually weighed the blob. And blob it is; new grass of the pasture is probably giving us a seasonally heavy Poop Weight figure! Maybe that error will balance a few excretive events surely missed.